Almería, (EFE).- The Cosentino Group is preparing to go public this year, in an operation for which it has hired the services of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan and in which the company’s valuation may exceed 3,000 million euros, but in which a sentence has been passed against the president of the multinational for five cases of silicosis in a marble factory in Vigo.
Dedicated to the production and distribution of surfaces for architecture and design, the three brothers Francisco, José and Eduardo Martínez-Cosentino are the seed of this company that billed 1,401 million euros and had 275 million ebitda (financial indicator of gross profit of exploitation calculated before the deductibility of financial expenses) in the last year with data, that of 2021. That same year it created almost 700 new jobs to reach 5,425.
It distributes its products in more than 110 countries and is established in 40, with subsidiaries or own commercial assets in 30 of them.
It has 8 production factories (seven in Almería and one in Brazil), an Intelligent Logistics Center in Spain, and more than 140 commercial and distribution facilities. More than 90% of its turnover is generated in international markets.
These are data that give an idea of the volume of this “giant”, and that have been valid for Francisco Martínez-Cosentino to be named Favorite Son of Andalusia by the Junta de Andalucía and has received the Medal of Merit in Work from the Government. .
The company has also received the National Innovation Award, granted by the Ministry of Science and Innovation.
But in what many of those interviewed by EFE coincide in qualifying as “the victory of David against Goliath”, five workers from the Granitel de Vigo company have caused the Cosentino Group to be the protagonist of numerous reports in the last two weeks, but not because of their economic achievements, but by the condemnation of its president.
On Monday, January 30, Francisco Martínez-Cosentino declared by videoconference in the Vigo courts and expressed his agreement with a sentence of six months and three days in jail for five crimes of serious injury, a notable reduction compared to two years and nine months in prison initially requested by the Public Ministry.
The reduction in sentences was possible thanks to the fact that the Prosecutor’s Office applied the highly qualified mitigation of reparation for the damage, by facing alone the payment of compensation for 1.1 million euros to the five workers, as well as for undue delay.
The main product of the Cosentino Group, ‘Silestone’, a quartz agglomerate, is the cause of this condemnation, since according to the ruling the silica content is approximately 95%, therefore “handling, cutting and polishing of said substance”, causes a dust with a “very high percentage of free crystalline silica”.
It affects the fact that these particles reach the pulmonary alveoli, and produce what is known as the “respirable fraction of free crystalline silica dust”, which accumulates and, with prolonged inhalation over time, leads to “the disease known as silicosis”, and which is “much more dangerous to health” than other natural stones such as marble or granite.
Silicosis at Cosentino
In addition, the ruling ensures that the convicted person was aware at least since 2000 of the risks and “dangerousness” of handling Silestone, since several of his employees had contracted it, but despite them he did not provide information to clients such as granitel.
The company maintains that the ruling “cannot be extrapolated to other past or future procedures”, and that it is “entirely incorrect” that it has “admitted to having concealed that Silestone’s manipulation has caused the majority of cases of silicosis that have affected 1,856 operators”.
It also maintains that, in other processes that have implicated the company, the judgments declared the correctness of the information provided by the company, “declaring that it had adequately and sufficiently informed about its products.”
And it is that this reality about silicosis is known and denounced. For example, in June 2022, Francisco Martínez-Cosentino was named an honorary doctor of the University of Almería (UAL).
A group from the Andalusian Association of People Harmed by Silicosis (APSA) was waiting for him on campus to protest the situation of silicosis patients, “who die before their disability is recognized.”
The scope of the disease
Between 2007 and October 2022, 596 reports of occupational disease due to silicosis were reported in Andalusia and the incidence of this disease has not stopped growing in the last decade and a half. A “serious re-emergence” caused by the production and transformation of quartz agglomerates, according to the professor of History of Science at the University of Granada (UGR), Alfredo Menéndez.
“It is medically discussed whether we are facing another pathology. (…) They are young people who, with very short periods of exposure, the average is barely 12 years. They develop pictures that are also in a very high percentage, accelerated silicosis, severe silicosis ”, explains the professor.
The president of APSA, Francisco Torrico, considers that it has become a “pandemic of uncountable magnitude.” “For the first time Cosentino acknowledges that he does not warn of the danger”, for which he “admits guilt”, stressed Torrico, who has assured that the sentence is “clear and forceful”.
For his part, the president of the Spanish Federation of Marble Workers (Fedesmar), Alfonso Fernández, has assured that “there was total misinformation” about quartz agglomerates, such as the ‘Silestone’ manufactured by the Cosentino Group -although he points out that the rest of producers did the same – and that if they had had current knowledge “today we would not be talking about silicosis in the sector”.
According to data from Fedesmar, until 2008 the sector had 4,774 companies, which in 2020 were only 3,194 (-33%), and it has gone from 24,235 to 14,561 workers (-40%). Likewise, between 1990 and 2019, up to 4,418 reports of silicosis disease were registered, which between 2007 and 2019 suffered an increase of 525.45% compared to the previous period. And even so, he believes that it is only the “tip of the iceberg”. EFE